Breastfeeding is like any other natural phenomena around us. But somehow the sight of a naked breast with a child latched on it becomes the most outrageous act a woman could ever do. We all know and are well aware about this whole idea of motherhood and how it is glorified over and over again, sometimes a bit too much, and yet, when this indispensable creature performs the most natural act of feeding her child, the whole world seems to fall apart. How could she? No shame? Look, she is showing her breasts! Well, duh, she is not showing her breasts, you are staring at them!
This whole taboo on breastfeeding originates from the context that we provide to this just another organ of the body. For centuries, women and their bodies have been treated as muses for men. Legs, thighs, breasts, waist – no matter what you talk about, has a sexual connotation. It is almost impossible to think about a woman’s body without getting aroused. Media, ads, the cosmetic world at large describe women and their need to look hot, oomphy and sexy as a compulsive behaviour.
The Moral Argument
Blames of obscenity, nudity, cultural paralysis are some of the gems that this society throws at women for breastfeeding in public. How else do you expect an infant to be fed? You want her to sit in one dark lonely corner, under the weight of ridiculous patriarchal norms struggling with an upset hungry baby. Trying to cover the shame that her exposed breast might bring to her family, community, country, world, universe, the whole damn galaxy even! Wow!
While space for smoke lounges and unregulated urinals are celebrated with courtesy and undisputed understanding, women too should be provided spaces in public areas for nursing their child. It is highly painful to look for a hidden haven each time.
Breastfeeding is the most logical thing to do. It is an immunizer for babies. Medically recommended. Naturally approved. However, cultural snobbery seems to butt its nose everywhere. Women in villages have done this for years. Well, ofcourse, if they are not malnourished and weak. So, is this propaganda of peek-a-boob an urban thought? Fantasy of the confused moral police? How were you fed, people?
As the world comes together to celebrate International breastfeeding week (Aug1-7), India continues to be stuck up. Calling the whole concept of demanding public space for mothers to breastfeed their child as an attempt of ’skin show’, authorities in Chennai rejected the public breastfeeding event. However, the relentless Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms (BSIM) Group would still go ahead and organise the event at the Elliot’s beach. In a very similar outburst, Pune too banned the events. However, a smaller city like Coimbatore has opened up its arms to the warm celebration of motherhood.
As governments, authorities and society take their own sweet time to break the cocoons of ignorance and denial, confident mothers march their way ahead – reclaiming what is rightfully theirs!
There is no need to be nudged away into dirty smelly toilets to feed a crying baby, not to forget, also risking its health. It is important and absolutely necessary to make breastfeeding normal. And this cannot be done alone. Family, friends, well wishers – everyone needs to provide support.
Another important task is to bring awareness on the importance of breast milk to the health of the child as well as the mother. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Risk of allergies and asthma lowers down because of the intake of breast milk. First 6 months of breast milk feeding as compared to any formula milk boosts the immunity of the baby that protects it from ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea.
Motherhood can’t just be restricted to fairy tales and polka dot nighties – it is much more than that. And there is nothing wrong with being who you actually are – a lactating mammal.